RBC Black History Month Student Essay Competition
December 4th, 2018
Black Women in the Fight for Justice: A Contemporary Viewpoint
Black people in the past have faced many difficulties and worked to counter them so as to create a better world for future generations. They set the stage for action and have motivated many to follow in their footsteps. Despite all that was done against by-products of slavery such as segregation, Black people still face similar mentalities but through a different manifestation. Black females in particular, are rising to demonstrate their credibility and are proving themselves in the workplace, whereby breaking barriers related to the mentality of White and male supremacy. They are facing and breaking both male misogynistic ideals and discriminatory barriers, which is of vital importance to acknowledge. It is difficult to change preconceived notions and stereotypes engrained into peoples’ minds regarding Black people, especially when media can often reinforce such thinking. It is therefore important to highlight the changes being brought forward by those undertaking social change and holding public leadership positions. The capabilities of and impact made by Black women such as Eugenia Duodu and Kike Ojo have and continue to help shape Canada’s identity and strengthen its heritage.
To begin, Eugenia Duodu is the CEO of the Visions of Science Network for Learning, which is a charitable organization encouraging under-represented youth from low-income areas to develop their skills in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM area (HERstory in Black: Eugenia Duodu). Her story begins as a child part of the Toronto Community Housing program, when her interest in science began to flourish due to encouraging teachers and Housing mentors. As she grew older and began to pursue her dreams, she felt alone in her experiences, being a Black woman from Housing. It was strange for her to see herself as a scientist because of the stereotypes associated with a typical scientist that she was exposed to on television and at school (Haves). She says that she “never once imagined a black woman who grew up in a low-income community because [she] was never exposed to such a narrative” (Haves). She is now giving back to the community she was brought up in to help nurture and motivate those that are under-represented in the STEM field. Out of the 22% of Canadian women who work in the STEM field, only 4% of them are racialized (In Conversation With: Eugenia Duodu). Duodu is working to break the stereotypes of Black people within Black people themselves, to help them break their mental restrictions and come forward to represent their community at the national level. Her contributions to her organization help enrich Canada’s heritage and pluralism by addressing contemporary setbacks experienced by youth today.
Kike Ojo is an advocate for social justice who assists organizations to achieve what she describes as “equitable outcomes for their staff and clients through the frameworks of anti-racism, anti-Black racism, anti-oppression, and diversity & inclusion” (Kike Ojo). When she was eight years old, she was passionate about a boycott against the apartheid in Toronto and was exposed to media about the civil rights movement (Kike Ojo | CBC Radio). Her father was Nigerian, which made her more aware of the discrimination against African people and anti-African sentiments. Her school-life saw promotion of discussion regarding race issues, difference in treatment based on dissimilarities, and other forms of oppression. She became the first Black Student Body President in her school and went on to start her own consulting firm to continue her commitment to social change and equity for all. In 2000, she received the Lincoln M Alexander Community Award for leadership in the elimination of racism. The Village is a mentorship program started by Ojo and agency workers from the Peel Children’s Aid Society to “fill the cultural gaps experienced by black youth in care between the ages of 16 and 21” (Contenta, Monsebraaten and Rankin). Ojo is also the manager of One Vision One Voice, a program of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society, more commonly known as CAS (Ontario's child protection association names first Black CEO). She is helping to create a formal network of Black Support Workers within the CAS as they push for change from the inside and help get through their struggle to address anti-Black racism.
As such, Ojo and Duodu are prime representations of Black females working to define Canada’s diversity and identity through the goals they achieve through leadership positions. Their impact is not only made through the demonstration of their capability, but also through their contributions to society today.
Contenta, Sandro, Laurie Monsebraaten and Jim Rankin. Taking steps to help black youth in CAS. 11 December 2014. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/12/11/taking_steps_to_help_black_youth_in_cas.html.
Haves, Dan. 'Unlikely Scientist': Chemistry alum Eugenia Duodu talks about unlocking potential in STEM. 13 February 2018. University of Toronto. http://www.chem.utoronto.ca/edistillations/2018/02/eugenia-duodu-unlikely-scientist.html.
HERstory in Black: Eugenia Duodu. 23 February 2017. CBC/Radio Canada. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/herstory-duodu-visions-of-science-1.3984776.
In Conversation With: Eugenia Duodu. n.d. Toronto Foundation. https://torontofoundation.ca/in-conversation-with-eugenia-duodu/.
Kike Ojo. n.d. http://www.kojoinstitute.com/.
Kike Ojo | CBC Radio. 30 June 2017. CBC/Radio Canada. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/upclose/kike-ojo-1.4182613.
Ontario's child protection association names first Black CEO. 18 November 2018. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/15/ontarios-child-protection-association-names-first-black-ceo.html.